Fancy on a Catch of John Blow


Fancy on a Catch of John Blow - (2011)     

for organ


The theme is drawn from The Catch Club or Merry Companions being a Choice Collection of the most Diverting Catches for three and Four voices Compos'd by the late Mr. Henry Purcell, Dr. Blow & c. with the full title, "A Three-Voice Catch on the Battle at Hailbron by Mr. Herbert, set to Musick by Dr. I. Blow."  The text for this round  [ 1 ]  reads: "Come here's a good Health to Prince Lewis the brave / That has bury'd cy Turks in the Save, / For drinkers of Water a suitable Grave, / Both the old and the new Turk, are here overthrown, / Now my Jolly, Jolly Comrades have at the fair Town, / With our Bombs of old Hock will we batter it down, / The Danube, the Danube's our Slave once again, / A greater than Xerxes has thrown in his Chain, / And the Heydelburg Tun shall close the Campain."


Throughout the time in which Blow and his students, Purcell and Clarke, were organists at Westminster Abbey, there were repeated wars with the Ottoman Empire, which explains this text about the "Turks." The Heidelberg Tun is the massive wine vat contained within the cellars of Heidelberg Castle. The most recent vat was made in 1751, long after this catch was composed, and is used for special occasions, and includes a dance floor. [ 2 ]   Hock refers to the English's understanding of German wine, as distinct from others.


The catch is noted in the Catch Club with its own ground bass, which underpins the ornamented lines of the catch melody itself. Blow was reputed to have employed "crudities" in some of his compositions according to Charles Burney's contemporary History of Music, with the frustration at attempting to explain one, he wrote "Here we are lost." For this some awkward passages and odd voice leading may be found within the fancy in homage to Blow's adventuresome spirit.




The entire work is here, , an MP3 file [ circa 3' 00" ]


The score for Fancy on a Catch of John Blow is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this organ score.


Fancy on a Catch of John Blow




[ 1 ]     The lengthy round with the "thorough bass" notated underneath it is as follows:



[ 2 ]    Mark Twain writes humorously in A Tramp Abroad, "Everybody has heard of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen hundred thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels. I think it likely that one of these statements is a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me. I do not see any wisdom in building a monster cask to hoard up emptiness in, when you can get a better quality, outside, any day, free of expense."